The Seer Green rail crash occurred on the morning of 11 December 1981 near Seer Green, Buckinghamshire, England between two four-car Class 115 diesel multiple units, killing one driver and three passengers.
|Seer Green rail crash|
|Date||11 December 1981|
|Location||Seer Green, Buckinghamshire|
|Line||Chiltern Main Line|
|List of UK rail accidents by year|
In the winter of 1981, the weather in Southern England turned cold and there were frequent heavy falls of snow. On the Chiltern Main Line, the snow caused tree branches in the cutting at Seer Green to be weighed down and some of them were brushed by passing trains.
On 11 December, the driver of an empty train from Marylebone to Princes Risborough came across a fallen branch lying across the track. He telephoned the signalman at High Wycombe to tell him that he was going to clear the obstruction and would be delayed by a few minutes.
Meanwhile, at Gerrards Cross, behind the stationary train, the driver of the 07:31 from Marylebone to Banbury was being cautioned by the signalman about the overhanging branches. The signalman then attempted to clear the starting signal for the train to proceed but the lever was locked. Unaware that the empty train had stopped, he looked at his signal box diagram and thought that the indications showed that the empty train was running towards Beaconsfield.
Assuming that the signal lever had frozen (when in fact it was electrically locked by the stationary train), he authorised the driver to pass the signal at danger, and the train set off into the still-falling snow. Glancing again at his diagram, he saw that the lights towards Beaconsfield were not in fact lit, and realised that the empty train was still in the section near Seer Green. He quickly went to the window and tried to attract the driver's attention by shouting, but nobody heard him.
The driver of the Banbury train drove too fast for the conditions and ran into the back of the empty train at about 30 mph. The front coach of the Banbury train partly telescoped underneath the rear coach of the empty train, and the driver and three passengers were killed. Five others were also injured.
At the public inquiry, Inspecting Officer Major C.F. Rose held the signalman at Gerrards Cross chiefly to blame, although he did note that the signalman had only been qualified for a month and had been appointed through a job centre because nobody could be recruited internally. In addition to his inexperience, the signalling between Gerrards Cross and High Wycombe was unusually complex, with several track circuit block sections and intermediate block sections. The signal box diagram was subsequently altered to make its indications less ambiguous.
The driver of the Banbury train also shared some responsibility, because he drove too fast to be able to stop short of the stationary train.
Although British Rail's rules stated that the guard of the empty train should have applied detonator protection, this would have been unreasonable given that the obstruction would have been cleared in a few minutes.
The A4010 is an important primary north-south road in Buckinghamshire, Southern England. It runs from High Wycombe at Junction 4 of the M40 motorway to Stoke Mandeville, near Aylesbury on the A413.A412 road
The A412 is a road in England between Slough and Watford. It was the main artery for this corridor and used to continue to St Albans prior to the construction of the M25. It provides interchange to the A4 in Slough, the A40/M40 at the Denham Roundabout, the M25 in Maple Cross, the A404 in Rickmansworth town centre, the A411 on a partially grade separated dual carriageway in Watford town centre, and the A41 in North Watford.A418 road
The A418 road is a main trunk road in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It begins at a roundabout with the A4146 just north of Ascott, near Leighton Buzzard. It then runs south as a single carriageway through Wing to Aylesbury. This stretch is proposed for a dual carriageway bypass. After diving through Aylesbury the road runs past Aylesbury College before heading out into Stone. From here it runs past Haddenham to the M40 near Thame. The road has been rerouted in two locations so that it no longer runs through Hulcott and Haddenham.A422 road
The A422 is an "A" road for east-west journeys in south central England, connecting the county towns of Bedford and Worcester by way of Milton Keynes, Buckingham, Banbury and Stratford-upon-Avon. For most of its length, it is a narrow single carriageway.A5130 road
The A5130 was a minor A-class road in the United Kingdom, from (near) the M1 at Junction 14 to Woburn. Although the roadway still exists, it was declassified in 2017.It started on a roundabout with the A509 just west of Junction 14 of the M1 motorway and proceeded south round (what was then) the eastern edge of the original Milton Keynes designated area. After crossing the A421 the A5130 continued past the village of Wavendon. It then crossed the Bedford-Bletchley railway by means of a level crossing and passed through Woburn Sands. It terminates a short distance to the south upon meeting the A4012 just inside the village of Woburn.Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway
The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway (A&BR) was an English railway located in Buckinghamshire, England operating between Aylesbury and Verney Junction.Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line
The Aylesbury–Princes Risborough line is a rural branch line between Princes Risborough and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. The line is single track throughout with a maximum speed of 40 mph.Beaconsfield services
Beaconsfield services is a motorway service station on the M40 motorway in Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, England. It is operated by Extra, and opened on 17 March 2009. It is the fourth and most recent of the service areas to be built on the 89-mile motorway which links London, Oxford and Birmingham. At its opening, it was the largest motorway service area in the United Kingdom. The petrol station, with 36 pumps is also the largest filling station in the country. Petrol stations are provided by Shell and a hotel is operated by Ibis Budget.Chiltern Way
The Chiltern Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England in the United Kingdom. It was created by the Chiltern Society as a millennium project.Greater Ridgeway
The Greater Ridgeway, also known as the Greater Icknield Way, is a 362-mile (583 kilometre) long-distance footpath crossing England from Lyme Regis in Dorset to Hunstanton in Norfolk. It is a combined route which is made by joining four long-distance footpaths: the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway National Trail, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way National Trail.Handy Cross roundabout
Handy Cross roundabout is a major road interchange at Handy Cross, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire; the junction for High Wycombe, the M40 motorway and the A404 dual-carriageway. It is the terminus of the A4010 which runs to Aylesbury.Magic Roundabout (High Wycombe)
The Magic Roundabout in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, is similar to the roundabouts with the same name in Swindon and other places. It is located on the junction of the A40 and A404. The junction is the second meeting point of the two roads, they interchange at the start of the A404 in Marylebone, London, with the A40 forming the Westway.
The two roads follow different routes to reach Wycombe, the A40 coming via Beaconsfield and the A404 via North London and Amersham. From the roundabout, the A40 continues towards Oxford, Cheltenham, Gloucester and South Wales, whilst the A404 goes south to Marlow and Maidenhead.Midshires Way
The Midshires Way is a long-distance footpath and bridleway that runs for 230 miles (370 km) from the Chiltern Hills from near Bledlow in Buckinghamshire, through the Midlands counties of Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, to Stockport, Greater Manchester. It also links several other long-distance walking routes or trackways including The Ridgeway, the Pennine Bridleway and the Trans Pennine Trail.The route was opened in 1994 as a collaboration between numerous Local Authorities and user groups. It is intended as a multi-user trail but there are places where the recommended route for walkers differs from the route for horse riders and cyclists.Milton Keynes redway system
The Milton Keynes redway system (locally known as Redways) is an over 200 mi (322 km) network of shared use paths for cyclists and pedestrians in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England. It is generally surfaced with red tarmac, and criss-crosses most of the city.
Some of these Redways run next to the grid roads and local roads, with underpasses or bridges where they intersect major roads. Others run through park land and along the floodplain of the Great Ouse and its tributaries.
Construction of the Redway commenced in the 1970s with the start of the construction of the "new city". By 1980 it was the largest urban cycleway system in the UK with 22 miles (35.4 km) in use.Newport Pagnell services
Newport Pagnell Services is a motorway service station between junctions 14 and 15 of the M1 motorway near Newport Pagnell and Milton Keynes in north Buckinghamshire. It is owned and operated by Welcome Break.Ouse Valley Way
The Ouse Valley Way is a 150-mile footpath in England, following the River Great Ouse from its source near Syresham in Northamptonshire to its mouth in The Wash near King's Lynn. The path begins outside the King's Head pub in Syresham (52.0683°N 1.0807°W / 52.0683; -1.0807 (Ouse Valley Way (Syresham trailhead))) and ends on the Green Quay in King's Lynn (52.7512°N 0.3935°E / 52.7512; 0.3935 (Ouse Valley Way (King's Lynn trailhead))).
There is a long-term plan to complete remaining gaps in the path, meanwhile it is possible to walk the entire route, although in places the footpath and river temporarily part company.
The route passes many interesting places and there is much to see, including attractive countryside, pretty villages, ancient English market towns, churches and a cathedral, and abundant wildlife.
Towns from source to mouth include Buckingham, Milton Keynes, Olney, Bedford, St Neots, Huntingdon, St Ives, Ely, Downham Market, and King's Lynn.
The route is way-marked and maintained by The Countryside Agency who also provide maps and written guides online.
A small section of the Ouse Valley Way is used on the Pathfinder March.Shakespeare's Way
Shakespeare's Way is a waymarked long-distance footpath in southern England, United Kingdom.Swan's Way (footpath)
Swan's Way is a long distance bridle route and footpath in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, England. It runs 65 miles (105 km) from Salcey Forest, Northamptonshire to Goring-On-Thames, Oxfordshire. Although designed for horseriders by riders, it is a multi-use trail also available to walkers and cyclists.
For walkers the path links with the Ridgeway National Trail, the western end of the Icknield Way Path, the Ouse Valley Way and the Three Shires Way.Telescoping (rail cars)
In a railway accident, telescoping occurs when the underframe of one vehicle overrides that of another, and smashes through the second vehicle's body. The term is derived from the resulting appearance of the two vehicle bodies: the body of one vehicle may appear to be slid inside the other like the tubes of a collapsible telescope – the body sides, roof and underframe of the latter vehicle being forced apart from each other.Telescoping often results in heavy fatalities if the cars telescoped are fully occupied. The car riding on top will often be destroyed by the structure of the car below, leaving very little survivable space (although the physics of the incident may reverse the cars' roles). The chances of telescoping can be reduced by use of anticlimbers and crash energy management (CEM) structural systems.
Accidents where telescoping occurred are numerous and include:
To reduce the chance of telescoping, rail and tramway vehicles are often provided with an anticlimber: a horizontally ridged plate at the end of the chassis, which in a collision will engage with the anticlimber on the next car.
Railway accidents in 1981
|Location and date|
‡ indicates railway accidents and incidents resulting in at least 20 fatalities
§ indicates the deadliest railway accident in British history